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Ray Barretto continues to refine his brand of swinging, Latin-inflected jazz with each succeeding release. On Time Was - Time Is, the venerable conguero leads a polished instrumental ensemble featuring Joe Magnarelli on trumpet and Myron Walden on alto with Robert Rodriguez at the piano and Sean Conly and Vince Cherico on bass and drums.
The set kicks off with a couple of Afro-Cuban classics. Bobby Sanabria joins the group on percussion to emphasize the folkloric rhythms of the opening "Drume Negrita (a staple of the Palladium Ballroom era) and joins Barretto on the ghostly chant that ends the pretty piece. The beautiful "Murmullo, best known for its recent revival by the Buena Vista Social Club, receives a relaxed reading emphasizing the poignancy of its memorable melody. Magnarelli's "Mags is hard-hitting straight-ahead jazz in the Messengers mold with scorching solos from Walden, Rodriguez and the composer. The uncredited innovative arrangement of "Motherless Child is one of the disc's high points, with Sanabria's percussion pushing the processional rhythm that marches deliberately, contrasting the minor mood.
The rest of the date (with the exception of the haunting old French ballad "Syracuse ) showcases the considerable compositional capabilities of the band members. "One for Ray is a thoughtful homage to Barretto by pianist Rodriguez. Walden's "The View from Here lightly swings a line reminiscent of Coltrane's "Central Park West, while his entrancing title track is an appealingly pensive piece. Conly's "Palladium Nights appropriately pays tribute to that mambo mecca with an amalgam of Latin dance rhythms (with Sanabria again augmenting the percussion section) and is notable for the leader's rare timbales solo. The concluding "Caper for Chris, a collaborative effort by Barretto and Magnarelli dedicated to the former's son, is a bluesy straight-ahead number that features the conguero's very capable trap drumming and scat singing.
Track Listing: Drume Negrita; Murmullo; Mags; Motherless Child; One for Ray; The View from Here; Time Was - Time Is; Palladium Nights; Syracuse; Caper for Chris.
Personnel: Ray Barretto: congas, timbales (8), drums (10); Joe Magnarelli: trumpet; flugelhorn; Myron
Walden: alto sax; Robert Rodriguez: piano;
Sean Conly: bass; Vince Cherico: drums; Bobby Sanabria: percussion.